CLEVELAND — A settlement worth $540,000 has been announced in a case with 12 plaintiffs in Cleveland regarding the May 2020 protests that took place within the city in response to the death of George Floyd.
Attorney Terry Gilbert said these plaintiffs were "innocent, peaceful protesters who were exercising their rights under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution."
Gilbert, who hosted a press conference about the settlement outside the Justice Center in downtown Cleveland late Thursday morning, also said those involved in the case were "violated by false arrest and prosecution" or subjected to excessive force.
You can watch the full press conference in the player below:
“In the course of that day, these individuals were there passionately standing up for the family of George Floyd, and seeking reforms with respect to the epidemic of police shootings in this country – particularly against young, Black men – but also the widespread excessive force we see almost daily in police departments across the country."
He said they hope this case can be used as a vehicle to seek reforms.
"The message to the city of Cleveland is don’t do this again," Gilbert said. "Work hard to properly train the officers, properly supervise. There was so much disconnect between the police department and their members that day where they overreacted without any guidance, without any supervision."
A few of the plaintiffs also spoke at the press conference after the settlement was announced. Here are highlights of what they had to say...
Shainna Bernard: “This is just a stitch in the fabric of reform. Our goal is to combat police brutality and misconduct. That’s what we’re here to do.”
Cassandra Ziemer: “I’m really glad that we were able to pursue this case and come to an agreement. … I’ve never experienced such violence at the hands of anyone else, any institution, more than the police officers that day. It was extremely painful and I don’t know if I’ll ever fully recover. I hope people remember that what was stood up for then and that Black lives do matter.”
Francesco Weiler: “I came out that day in support of the unjustice of what is happening to predominantly people of color in this country. I hope that this case does show semblance of moving forward something that can change positively for a lot of the discrimination that we are trying to eliminate moving forward.”
Friedman, Gilbert and Gerhardstein, the law firm that represented the case, offered this statement about the situation prior to their Thursday press conference:
On Saturday, May 30, 2020, Downtown Cleveland, like many cities nationwide, was the center of protests against racial injustice and police brutality, prompted by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The City of Cleveland, through its police department, was called to various areas of Downtown Cleveland to engage the protesters and allegedly keep the peace. Yet, instead of protecting free speech under the First Amendment, many peaceful protesters were attacked, falsely arrested and/or charged without justification or probable cause, and worse yet, detained for multiple days in the Cuyahoga County Corrections Center and falsely charged with crimes.
Editor's note: Video in the player above was originally published in an unrelated story on Aug. 31, 2022.